Denver deployed a three-guard lineup, with shooting guard Lenard starting at forward, power forward Nene opening at center because of an injury to Marcus Camby (lower back strain), and two point guards in the backcourt.
It resulted in a quicker and better shooting lineup, although the Nuggets were outrebounded.
“It was effective,” Nuggets coach Jeff Bzdelik said. “They all can handle the ball and they all can shoot it. And they all can make the plays. I like the shot distribution from it.”
Guard Earl Boykins said the alignment worked because “most teams can’t match up with us because of the two point guards. Having Andre and I on the court at the same time presents a different look.”
Memphis coach Hubie Brown agreed that the Nuggets’ lineup posed matchup problems for his team.
“They were playing small because of their quickness,” Brown said. “Unfortunately for us, our point guards had a very bad game. Between them, they had eight turnovers. That hurt us in the open floor because they got a lot of easy baskets.”
The Nuggets, 17-11 after going 17-65 last season, opened the fourth quarter with a 14-4 run for a 95-84 lead.
Memphis cut the deficit to four points with 1:25 left but got no closer.
Referring to the 17th win, Bzdelik said, “In this business, winning is what it’s all about. Last year a plan was put into place, and this year we want to take a big step. We aren’t there yet.”
Nene added 16 points and Carmelo Anthony 15 for Denver, which shot 51 percent compared to Memphis’ 47 percent.
Reserve Rodney White scored eight points during the Nuggets’ 14-4 flurry early in the final quarter. White had a three-point play and a 3-point basket, and his 20-foot jumper made it 93-84 with 8:13 remaining.
“The guy who really hurt us off the bench was Rodney White,” Brown said. “He got a quick 10 points in 13 minutes. We knew he was a guy who can get a lot of points in a hurry, and he did that tonight.”
Posey hit three free throws as Memphis scored seven straight points to make it 101-97.
The lead remained four points until Anthony hit an alley-oop dunk on a pass from Boykins for a 105-99 lead with 24 seconds left.
Nene scored 10 points in the first quarter, and the Nuggets shot 48 percent to Memphis’ 39 percent to take a 29-22 lead.
Gasol’s jump hook gave Memphis a 17-13 lead midway through the period, but the Nuggets outscored the Grizzlies 16-5 the remainder of the quarter, including three baskets by Boykins.
Back-to-back baskets by Lenard and Miller pushed Denver’s lead to 45-34 with 4:59 left in the second quarter.
But the Grizzlies rallied in the last two minutes of the quarter, using a 10-2 run to produce a 52-52 tie. Jason Williams and Posey had 3-point baskets during the flurry.
Another 3-pointer by Posey gave Memphis a 67-61 lead midway through the third period. Denver countered with a 9-0 run, including a 3-pointer by Lenard,and the Nuggets led 81-80 entering the final period.
The Nuggets placed guard Jon Barry on the injured list with a strained neck and activated guard Jeff Trepagnier, who had been on the injured list all season with a sprained left ankle. … Nene sprained his left thumb in the third quarter but continued to play. X-rays were negative, and his status was listed as probable. … The Nuggets have won 12 in a row at home over the Grizzlies. … Wright, who was injured on Friday and played only five minutesof Saturday’s game, is listed as day-to-day.